Last week, Illinois was forced to delay a vote on legislation that would regulate Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) due to vote-buying allegations. Illinois was set to vote on the DFS bill before the state legislature adjourned its spring session on May 31, but Democratic Rep. Michael Zalewski decided it had “became a distraction to an unhealthy degree” and temporarily pulled the plug.
Zalewski is one of the bill’s sponsors and had little choice in making the decision after allegations surfaced that a lobbyist working on behalf of DFS leaders DraftKings and FanDuel had guaranteed votes in exchange for donations in an email. Democratic Rep. Rita Mayfield revealed this damaging info during a hearing on the bill and did not feel comfortable voting on it, later declining to speak any further to reporters on the subject.
DraftKings and FanDuel have denied the allegations, with spokesman Jeremy Kudon quoted as saying “it’s simply not how we do business, here or anywhere in the country.” Approximately two million people in Illinois participate in DFS contests, making it the third-largest market in the country, according to the Fantasy Trade Association.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has already gone on record as saying DFS should be considered illegal gambling under the state’s current laws. The proposed bill to legalize DFS that has been tabled would give the responsibility of regulation to the Illinois Gaming Board, which would oversee the contests and operators, who would be required to pay licensing fees based on revenue and face fines if they violated the law.
Other states nationwide currently ban DFS contests, also classifying them as illegal gambling. Illinois outlaws games of skill or chance when played for money. DFS supporters have long argued that the contests should be simply deemed games of skill and not classified as gambling.
Even Nevada, where gambling is legal, has disallowed DFS because DraftKings and FanDuel have refused to seek licenses in the state to operate there. Getting licensed would be admitting DFS is gambling, and that would send the wrong message to every other state in the U.S. Still, Nevada’s decision has paved the way for more states like Illinois to force DFS operators to comply to their laws.
Unfortunately for Illinois, nothing seems to come easy, especially when it comes to voting and political issues. From the recent scandal surrounding the impeachment of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who solicited bribes for political appointments, to several federal cases involving the state’s members of the House of Representatives, Illinois has been well-known for political corruption.
Because of that, the email in question brought up by Mayfield verbally seems a lot more believable even without any real proof. It was certainly enough to halt the bill from passing in the near future, leaving DraftKings and FanDuel to continue their fight against Madigan in court instead. Zalewski also remains hopeful that the bill will be addressed again in the next session.